National Public Health Institutions Vital To Outbreak Preparedness In Africa

Nature: How Africa can quell the next disease outbreaks
John N. Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

“This week, African and global health experts and policymakers are gathering in Addis Ababa to discuss how to enable national public health institutions (NPHIs) to keep emerging and re-emerging infectious disease in check. At the top of the agenda must be empowering local leadership to act fast…. NPHIs are a health-security imperative in a changing Africa … And we have seen time and again that an outbreak in Africa is a global threat. … NPHIs should prioritize four broad areas. First, providing basic functions such as disease surveillance and coordinating emergency operations, even in remote areas. Second, creating lab networks that can quickly diagnose, track, and pinpoint the origin of emerging infections. Third, developing a workforce to collect, assess, share, and act on quality data … Fourth, developing a strong capacity for social scientists to engage with communities and change behaviors. … All this requires political leadership, financial commitment, partnerships, and innovation. … [N]o one doubts that this road map for pandemic preparedness requires unprecedented levels of political and financial engagement. … The health of the continent, and of the world, depends on all of us keeping our commitments” (3/11).